Fourteen armed agents raided animal shelter to execute captive baby deer

Giggles the deer (Source: WISN)
Giggles the deer (Source: WISN)
Giggles the deer (Source: WISN)

KENOSHA, WI — An animal shelter was swarmed with more than a dozen armed government agents after its employees began caring for a baby deer.  The intruders stormed the facility with the premeditated intention of executing the fawn, to the horror of shelter employees.  Email collaboration between the agents indicates that they “looked forward” to the raid.

“It was like a SWAT team,” shelter employee Ray Schulze said to WISN.

Back in July, a concerned family dropped off a baby deer to the Society of St. Francis animal shelter, located near the Illinois border in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  The fawn had been abandoned by its mother and the well-meaning shelter owner intended to see that it grew up safely.  The tiny 20-pound deer was given a place to sleep in the barn and quickly earned the affection of its human care-givers.  It spent about 2 weeks at the shelter.

They decided to name it Giggles.  “When it made a little noise, it sounded like it was laughing,” Schulze said.

But this was no laughing matter.  In Wisconsin, it is verboten for humans to care for deer without government permission.

Giggles the deer (Source: WISN)
Giggles the deer (Source: WISN)

Two anonymous snitches tipped off the Department of Natural Resources.  The property was put under surveillance.  Dressing in full camouflage, a warden sneaked onto the property to hide in the bushes and observe the operation.  The warden spent two days playing commando in the backyard of the shelter.  When he was satisfied with the intel that he had gathered, and confirmed that a deer was on the property, he began taking steps toward eliminating the threat.

At no time were the shelter employees approached about the deer.  The warden did not walk up and have a conversation with anyone about the situation.  There was no friendly phone call.

Instead, the warden drafted an affidavit for the search warrant, complete with aerial spy photos that he used to describe the fawn’s entry point into the barn.  The search warrant was signed by Kenosha County Judge Jason Rossell, and the mission was staged.

Without warning, on a quiet July day, the shelter was surrounded by armed men in a surprise raid.  A total of fourteen agents, comprising of the DNR and Kenosha County Sheriff’s deputies, were counted on scene.

“They were all armed to the teeth,” Schulze said.

The shelter workers were all “corralled” into the picnic area and then agents performed their search for the fawn.  Schulze tried to explain to the agents that the fawn was to be sent off to a sanctuary the following day; a wildlife reserve just over the border in Illinois.  There, the deer would be allowed to permanently stay and under human supervision.  But the agents could not be reasoned with.

“I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag,” Schulze said. “I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ He said, ‘That’s our policy,’ and I said, ‘That’s one hell of a policy.'”

DNR agents had sedated the fawn.  They immediately took her to a nearby park and shot her with a bolt gun, according to DNR documents.

The DNR claims its aggressive stance on prohibiting humans from caring for animals is to protect the herd from chronic wasting disease.

When asked by a reporter why the department didn’t make a phone call before devoting massive resources to the raid, they likened it to a drug bust.  DNR supervisor Jennifer Niemeyer made the following statement to WISN:

“If a sheriff’s department is going in to do a search warrant on a drug bust, they don’t call them and ask them to voluntarily surrender their marijuana or whatever drug that they have before they show up.”

That statement offered a telling insight into the mentality of how law enforcement views these victimless offenses.  The mission is not about keeping the peace, or keeping people safe — it has devolved into secret raids that can lead to maximum arrests.  Rather than simply phone the shelter and discuss the “problem” like adults, a strike team was assembled.

And the officers apparently get some kind of satisfaction out of it, despite the P.R. claims to the contrary.  According to WISN 12 News:

After WISN 12 News first reported the raid, the DNR posted a statement on its Facebook page calling the operation a “difficult and emotional job” that “none of our staff take joy in,” but emails between DNR employees suggest something else.

One DNR employee wrote, “I look forward to the event!!”

Another said, “I am looking forward to it, too,” with a smiley face attached.

Is this the result of bordom in rural Wisconsin?  Or do people really derive pleasure from terrorizing a bunch of gentle animal-lovers trying to do a good deed?

Consider the email correspondence that WISN 12 News uncovered.

Even more stunning, they said, was the series of congratulatory emails that followed: “Another successful capture of an illegally possessed deer.” There was a smiley face in reply.

The writer boasts, “No arrests, no issues, no injuries… outstanding job!!!!” It’s unclear who’s congratulating whom because of the blacked out names.

From the perspective of the dutiful enforcers, this was superb work.  But was the community served by this action?  Did it really make any sense?  Did the agents win the support of the community?

Actually, the “outstanding” raid was so unpopular that it caused nationwide outrage.  So much outrage, that the DNR was bombarded with negative comments, including 45 internet death threats.

“It sounded like a full-blown raid, going to get Osama bin Laden,” said Mike Kobliska of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK).

The raid cost taxpayers $2,500.00, according to the DNR.  Something so trivial could have been resolved with one single agent with a clipboard.  Or better yet, the shelter could have been left alone and cost the taxpayers nothing.

The DNR’s board seems unlikely to adopt any changes, despite proposals to allow private individuals to keep deer if they get a license, pay fees and work with a veterinarian.  The board strongly opposed the idea.

The WI DNR spokesman said that more of these situations would be possible in the future.   And this was not an isolated incident.  A virtually identical situation happened in August 2013 in Ogilvie, Minnesota, exclusively covered by   A more extreme case occurred in Randolph County, NC, which involved a “bunch of guys with shotguns” raiding a private farm to kill 9 deer by blasting them on site.

These recurring situations beg the question: Do wildlife policy in the United States need to be reformed?  Should a permit really be required to rescue and raise an animal on private property?  If people can own a dog or a cow, why can’t they own a deer?  Do “free” people need permission?


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Here’s the original coverage of the Society of St. Francis raid.

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